Myth: Eating turkey makes you sleepy

November 23, 2005

There's reportedly good Thanksgiving news for turkey lovers: Contrary to popular belief, tryptophan in turkey doesn't cause drowsiness.

In fact, scientists told National Geographic News the substance could possibly aid in the treatment of depression and multiple sclerosis.

Purified tryptophan is a mild sleep-inducing agent and that probably led to the idea that foods containing heavy doses of the chemical cause drowsiness.

But tryptophan can't function well as part of a meal.

"Tryptophan is taken to the brain by an active transport system shared by a number of other amino acids and there's competition among them -- like a crowd of people trying to get through a revolving door," Simon Young, a neurochemist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, told National Geographic News.

He said consuming tryptophan-rich foods may cause blood levels of the amino acid to rise, but not enough tryptophan will reach one's brain to have a sedative affect.

And, scientists told NGN, turkey isn't even unusually high in tryptophan. Many other foods, such as beef or soybeans, have higher concentrations.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Explore further: Turkey is not the only culprit for drowsiness on Thanksgiving

Related Stories

Turkey is not the only culprit for drowsiness on Thanksgiving

November 21, 2017

There are many traditions that families hold dear during the holidays, including a post-Thanksgiving-meal nap. While most people assume that the tryptophan in turkey is the culprit, a registered dietitian at Baylor College ...

No more turkey trash talk

November 26, 2013

Turkeys are heading to tables around the country for traditional holiday meals and countless leftovers, and its reputation as a sleep inducer gives many an excuse to nap rather than wash dishes or toss around a football. ...

Don't Blame Tryptophan for Thanksgiving Snooze

November 20, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Blame it on the heavy meal, the alcohol, or simply the opportunity afforded by a free afternoon on a traditional holiday. Just don't blame it on the tryptophan, say experts at the University of Cincinnati.

Recommended for you

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

Heavy oils and petroleum coke raising vanadium emissions

December 15, 2017

Human emissions of the potentially harmful trace metal vanadium into Earth's atmosphere have spiked sharply since the start of the 21st century due in large part to industry's growing use of heavy oils, tar sands, bitumen ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.